Many happy returns

Iva Pešić

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April 8th – 24th


“Everyone has to deal with their own problems. What matters is what we all have in common. Life and death are the essences, constantly present in everyday life, the images of life and death constantly alternating, and it is up to you to distinguish one from the other, through your own prism, with your own alchemy. That’s what painting is for. Being an artist means nothing, it’s fake. What should be important in the paintings is the space for a human, what is true, possible, essential to a human.” René Strubel


To Iva Pešić, the awareness of the lived experience represents a rich ground for inspiration, stimulated by a strong instinct and sensibility, not only for her own experience but for every life she encounters in its real form, films, books.

The exhibition consists of two segments, “Breath of Life” and “Last Breath”, distant from each other in time, only to be united again at some new point by the method of painterly treatment. The first is the motive of the children’s birthday party as a kind of vanitas, a scene of obvious short-lived pleasure, temporariness of life and ceremonial idealization. The second is a scene of death, bleached, weakened, reduced to something blunt and colourless.

However, for Iva, the visible world is only a distant starting point for breaching into another space where the border between the exterior and the interior disappears. Although the painting process is material, the motives themselves seem to endure this materiality, but do not acknowledge it. Beneath that upper layer of visibility, the artist is interested in the reality that is invisible, inner.

In the segment titled “The Last Breath”, the artist introduces newspaper clippings of murdered mobsters as a template for the painting. From the angle of the naked reality, they are corpses of twisted limbs, carelessly put on the floor, reminiscent of discarded dolls. By the moment the photojournalist’s flash triggered, these bodies seemed to be floating in the space of darkness, unlit or long-extinguished events, only to stop there with the profound changes they had undergone. The moment of flash last records the event, erasing the organic element and translating the whole situation into something virtual. Thus was registered the last thing that could be perceived in that scene, leaving a mark and a memory; a space for a new elaboration. That vague and limp happening is further revealed only in the breath of painterly form.

Fragments of children’s birthday parties are another border given through a simple scene that promises a new opportunity, new events, an idea for a new thought. “There is nothing as lively and triumphant as children’s birthday celebrations,” says Iva. “Blowing candles, chanting and applause, gifts in rainbow colours, flashy decorations, hats and whistles, they all have a ritual nature. It is the way we deal with the old concept of the life-death-life cycle, it is part of the picture of our unconscious. When we blow out our birthday candles, we not only acknowledge that the years have passed forever, but that it is Life that extinguishes the Past. Our creative spirit needs to destroy in order to create. Because only when something dies something new can be born. Through this common ritual, we are reconciled with death and thus liberated.”

The course of the exhibition is not straightforward. The line of the painted is interrupted by backgrounds and fonts, which, when faced with images, acquire a character of a procession. Words on the surface of non-painterly materials (velvet) are the basis for thought, distraction and bait for deliverance. At first glance, they are an enigma that it is not, because with their content they write trivia, fabricated messages and instructions for appropriate moments. In the search for something good, a possible instruction for a challenge that will give us the opportunity to win the manifestation of our own desires, aside from little relief in the form of empty phrases, we are again in the procession of a setting which suggestion will reach us even when we are physically displaced. 

“As far away from the place of birth as possible,” says Saint-John Perse. “The goal is — the unknown. At the border awaits a ban on the transmission of the spirit and form of the past. Here the language, colour and shape seem to betray. Abolition of everything material. Devaluation of everything organic, metaphors of alienation, the liberation of every place and every time.” Oto Bihalji Merin

Text: Mihajlo Cvetković